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Table of Contents

BICS and CALP Index Topics

  • History of BICS and CALP
  • The TESOL ESL Standards (1997) states
  • Definition of BICS and CALP
  • Factors that may determine an ELL’s ability to acquire CALP

History of BICS and CALP

  • A 1976 student of Finnish immigrant children in Sweden found high social
    language ability in Swedish but still performed poorly on academic tasks.
  • Jim Cummins developed acronyms for BICS and CALP in 1979. He
    discovered two dimensions of language social and academic

The TESOL ESL Standards (1997) states:

  • ”In school environments, ESL students need to be able to use spoken and written English both to acquire academic content and to demonstrate their learning.”

Definition of BICS and CALP

  • BICS = Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills
    • Near mastery or mastery of pronunciations and grammar
    • Face-to-face everyday, conversational fluency
    • BICS proficiency usually take 1-3 years
    • BICS more literal “skim” – glide over the surface
    • BICS proficiency is not an indicator of an ELLs ability to handle complex, unscaffolded academic tasks
  • CALP = Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency
    • A more complex language proficiency
    • ELLs have the ability to understand academic vocabulary/language when it is used in different contexts
    • CALP is necessary to develop CORE concepts/master CORE Standards and Framework Goals
    • CALP is usually associated with the ability to use Bloom’s higher level thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
    • ELLs usually need CALP to learn the abstract language linked to different CORE content areas (e.g. piano – the instrument, piano – play softly (music); break a leg – good luck (drama), break a leg – injury to ones body; etc.)
    • CALP is more abstract – “skim” – quickly review main ideas

Factors that may determine an ELL’s ability to acquire CALP

  • Mastery of primary/native language
  • Schooling in native language/especially reading and writing
  • Amount of continued exposure to primary/active language
  • The more exposure and use the better, especially in reading ones primary language, which positively impacts reading proficiency in L2